English, please!

In 1422, the London brewers took an important decision: they decided that from then on they would record their proceedings in a new language, and this new language was to be – English! Till then, they had recorded their proceedings in French. English was now beginning to replace French (and, very gradually, also Latin) as the normal form of written communication. In 1399, the order disposing Richard II was read in English, and his successor, Henry IV, used English to claim the throne and in his acceptance speech. His successor, Henry V, followed his father in publishing his will in Engish. His reign saw the legendary victory at Agincourt – over the French! It engered a rising consiousness of nationhood and the increasing use of English in official contexts. Knowledge of French had been on the wane before. In 1395, a certain John of Trevisa complained that English children knew not enough French to be taught in that language. He claimed that their Latin lesson should be given in English, not French. (Howatt, A.P.R.: A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984: 4-5)

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